Professor Maeve Conrick
The Future of Languages in
German Teachers’ conference
19 November 2011
Language policy and demographics
Language policy and languages in
RIA National Languages Strategy
Language policy and demographics
‘The question will act as an important measure of
integration; it will provide data on who speaks a language
other than English or Irish at home and this will be
analysed against other factors that indicate broader
participation in society (at work, in education etc.). It will
also provide information on how well English is spoken by
people who have a language other than English as their
mother tongue. The information will be available for all age
groups including school children and can be used to target
state resources in areas such as education and health to
support people who may struggle speaking English.’ (CSO,
2011 Census Form)
Language policy and languages
A. Language policy and languages
i. Acquisition planning for immigrants
ii. Language policy in education
B. Developing a national policy on languages in Ireland
i. Current status and trends
a.languages provision at primary and secondary level
b.teacher education
ii. Challenges and Opportunities
Language policy and languages
Acquisition planning for immigrants
Language policy in education
Developing a national policy on
Current status and trends
languages provision at primary and
secondary levels
teacher education
Challenges and Opportunities
Council of Europe 2008
‘Compared with other countries where
Language Education Policy Profiles have
been prepared, Ireland has already
produced a significant number of studies
and reports, either descriptive or position
papers’ (Council of Europe 2008, Section
Council of Europe 2008 (cont.)
If the key advice to the national
authorities could be summed up in one
recommendation, it would be to
examine the feasibility of an integrated,
coherent, language in education policy
(Council of Europe 2008, Section 3.3).
RIA National Languages Strategy:
to provide an overview of the position of
languages in education in Ireland today
to outline the challenges facing Ireland in its
development as a multilingual society,
particularly in relation to education, and
to make recommendations in relation to
language education and more broadly, which
seek to meet these challenges and enhance
Ireland’s position within an increasingly
multilingual global economy. (RIA 2011: 1)
British Academy
‘The UK’s social and economic future relies on our
ability to compete on the international stage. It is
not coincidental that within months of entering
office the coalition government has organised very
large and high profile teams led by the Prime
Minister to visit India and China. Within the
European context too, our neighbours are
important trading partners yet we are rapidly
becoming a nation of monolinguals.’ (cont.)
British Academy
‘With an increasing number of companies having
international dealings, mobility and language skills
are being viewed as vital by employers. The
proficiency that graduates with language and
international experience bring goes beyond just
the acquisition of a single language, demonstrating
in addition initiative, motivation, independence and
an ability to engage with those who have different
backgrounds and experience’ (British Academy
Policy Centre, 2011: 5).
EU linguistic profile
‘The EU now has 500 million citizens, 27 Member
States, 3 alphabets and 23 EU official languages,
some of them with a worldwide coverage. Some
60 other languages are also part of the EU
heritage and are spoken in specific regions or by
specific groups. In addition, immigrants have
brought a wide range of languages with them: it is
estimated that at least 175 nationalities are now
present within the EU’s borders.’ (European
Commission 2008: 4).
Challenges and Opportunities
‘the main challenge for Ireland…is to
become a truly multilingual society, where
the ability to learn and use two or more
languages is taken for granted and fostered
at every stage of the education system and
through lifelong education’ (Department of
Enterprise, Trade and Innovation 2010: 32)
Languages for jobs
‘The working group has drawn up this report as a
response to the main challenges associated with
the provision of language skills for the labour
market. It constitutes an appeal to sharpen the
focus on employment-related aspects of language
learning. The aim is to provide input for the current
discussions at national and European levels on
modernising education systems and quality
assurance built on learning outcomes.’ (2011:4)
Languages for jobs
The main challenge is for language teaching to
become learner-focused, better geared to
professional contexts and the needs of the jobs
market. This, in turn, will improve learner
motivation and the successful taking up and use of
available opportunities. This will be to the benefit
not only of learners but also those seeking to
employ people who are well-trained and properly
qualified to assume their professional
responsibilities. (2011: 4)
Comments: IBEC
‘Over 75% of the world’s population do not
speak English and only 9 per cent speak
English as their first language. If we neglect
to ensure adequate availability of foreign
language skills in Ireland, the opportunities
of the global market will not be realised.’
(Tony Donohue, IBEC, as quoted in The
Irish Times)
Comments: Enterprise Ireland
‘The lack of people with German language
skills in our exporting companies is a major
contributing factor to why we have never
managed to fully exploit the opportunity the
market affords.’
(Deirdre McPartlin, Enterprise Ireland, as
quoted in The Irish Times)
RIA National Languages
 Recommendations:
General ‘Languages–in-Education’
Primary level
Post-primary level
Third level
Broader national level
General ‘Languages–inEducation’ recommendations
modern languages continue to
be taught with an emphasis on
cultural, as distinct from purely
linguistic, awareness. Sociocultural
awareness needs to be seen and
understood as an integral part of
language education.
General ‘Languages–inEducation’ recommendations
mother-tongue support and
English-language support be
reinstated as standard, for
children of newcomers to Ireland
in particular.
Primary level
the Modern Languages in Primary
Schools Initiative be integrated into the
mainstream curriculum […] rather than
being limited to extra-curricular time and to
a portion of schools. […] these subjects
must not only continue to be taught as
academic subjects in B.Ed. degrees but
also be seen as central components of the
B.Ed. degree.
Post-primary level
advanced proficiency in a
third language be made a
universal requirement in order to
integrate plurilingualism into the
Post-primary level
formal external assessment
of oral proficiency be made
compulsory for modern languages
at Junior Certificate level, in order
to improve communicative
competence in languages at
junior cycle.
Third level
modern languages be
treated as a priority subject at
third level, in the context of the
development of a global society.
[…] This is an urgent issue if the
erosion of language capacity in
Ireland is to be prevented.
Third Level
each institution of higher
education be formally requested
to produce an internal policy on
languages where such a policy is
not already in place.
Third level
THAT third-level institutions be encouraged
to equip all of their students with strong
language skills and intercultural knowledge
[…] they should also be encouraged to
exploit the capacity for, and to build space
into, programmes for students to pursue
language subjects which, while possibly
outside their specialist fields, may well be of
interest due to their educational, social,
personal and economic value.
Broader national level
a Language Advisory Board be
established, whose role would be to
advise on policy initiatives and
development. Board membership should
include not only language specialists at all
levels of the Irish educational system, but
also representatives from organisations
such as Enterprise Ireland, NCCA, and
government departments.
Broader national level
resources be allocated for
national-level high-quality research
with a view to establishing a precise,
accurate and more systematic picture
of the overall linguistic landscape and
profiles of the needs of, for example,
exporting SMEs.
Broader national level
a number of key Irish public
figures (from politics, sport, business,
entertainment) with multilingual skills
be identified as ‘language
ambassadors’ who could be used to
showcase the benefits of
plurilingualism for Irish people.

Professor Maeve Conrick The Future of Languages in Ireland